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Share your experience - Rebecca's story

My story is a mixed bag.  I grew up around formula feeding and much to my own mothers disgust was formula fed due to doctor's misinformation, unfortunately she died of ovarian cancer when I was 19 (I constantly wonder if this is linked to her not breastfeeding).  My in-laws are a fully formula fed family as well. 

I was lucky enough to fall pregnant just after my best friend and I was doubly lucky to make contact with an old school friend via Facebook when I was pregnant; I with my first her with her fourth.  She was a breastfeeding peer counsellor and encouraged me to go along to one of the cafes, this along side my best friend talking to me about her plans to breastfeed left me fully informed and passionately planning to breastfeed.  My best friend had huge issues and lack of support when her son was born and she made the decision to formula feed. I still had 6 months to go and ran out and bought bottles and sterilising equipment in case I found myself in the same position.

Two months before my due date I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, diet controlled. I was warned on the forum I used that it was very common that if baby was born with low blood sugars they would insist he feed immediately and that it might be likely that I wouldn't be able to do this if I'd been induced (as doctors were insisting I would be if I made it to 40wks) and had to have a Cesarean section, epidural or an insulin drip, so recommended I start expressing so I had breast milk to give baby just in case.

For four weeks before baby was due, I massaged and tried to express and got nothing, at all, zilch! I was told that I may not be doing it correctly or that it was normal and would come in when baby arrived.  I was lucky that my peer counselling friend also donates milk to our local hospital and had offered me some of her milk to take in case of an emergency.  I was very well read and horrified by formula so jumped at her offer
When my son arrived (38+4) my labour was very quick (20 mins from 5cm) and he was born with high blood sugars, within a few minutes of him being born I asked my midwife if I should try and latch him.  She told me only if he looked like he wanted it, that as his sugar levels were so high he probably wouldn't be interested at all and to just wait till he was.....12 hours later I was still waiting! Roughly 20 minutes after he was born I was rushed off for a shower and my son was cleaned up and dressed so I could be taken to a ward, everything I knew about skin to skin was lost on the moment and I followed orders, losing put on what could have been key time to prevent the problems I was about to encounter.

I had tried to latch him a few times over the night, he was very little (6lb 8oz) and sleepy.  He didn't cry at all even when born (he made the cutest little mewing noise though) so I felt he was content and not to worry.  I met with the Dr for his normal checks that afternoon and was asked if he'd fed, to which my answer was no.  His sugars were still high but dropping, but there was no concern, I was just instructed to get feeding in place so I could go home.  I met with breastfeeding support and was told I was doing everything correctly, but my son had a weak suck and only latched for short periods.

The hospital was sweltering, we were both naked but sweating and this was keeping him sleepy and unwilling to feed.  I asked a Lactation Consultant to help as he wouldn't latch and I was told 'if he won't open his mouth there's nothing I can do'.  Along side all the hospital's unhelpful support, I was lucky enough to have my best friend and my school friend vigorously texting support, it was only this that kept me strong for the string of midwives that would tell me that I was to give my baby formula and that I was wrong not to.

Three days after he was born I was completely stressed out, he still hadn't fed but I had now realised that I didn't have any milk coming out.  The night of the third day, I was attempting to feed him again and found that when I picked him up we were hotter than ever which was unusual for night.  I asked one of the midwives to come and check him as I feared a fever, she clearly thought I was crazy, came after an hour to take his temperature and told me he was fine.

She asked me 'are you ready to give this baby a bottle yet?'  I told the midwife that I had donated breast milk with me from a hospital donor and that if he needed it then I would be happy to give him this.  She replied 'that's totally unacceptable' and walked off.

This was my breaking point, I sat and sobbed over his cot feeling a failure and clearly it was me causing all the issues.  I decided that after his next blood sugar test, if we hadn't initiated feeding and his sugars had dropped more that I would give him a bottle.  The next morning I texted this to my breast friend and she suggested asking for a breast pump to try and bring my milk out, a new midwife was on duty and she was fabulously supportive.  My one last try and after 20 minutes pumping I had colostrum! I cried with relief.  I syringe fed him the bits I had collected and latched him again.  The sugars were better but he now had jaundice! They wanted me to stay in another day. I still felt positive and things felt much better.  The next day the jaundice wasn't any worse and after a lot of debating agreed to let me go home.

Once at home the lack of heat made things feel so much easier! I took to bed and we simply fed and slept.  The midwife came the next day and latched us perfectly, things were just getting better and better.  Because it was so far along and my son didn't even have milk yet only colostrum, he was looking very dehydrated, his soft spot was very sunken and his weight was down to 5lb 10oz.  The midwife started coming every day, she insisted I top up but was happy for me to pump and top up, but pumping saw me produce very little.  I was being told daily by the midwife that unless I topped up he was likely to need to go back in to hospital (not true as although he wasn't gaining he wasn't losing weight) but under the pressure I decided that as my friend was kind enough to donate milk to us, I would use that to top him up, his weight obviously shot up and the midwife signed us off.

We spent the next few weeks in bed feeding and eventually found our feet.

I owe our success to the support of the friends around us. I feel very blessed to have had them.  I feel like breast feeding rates have dropped mostly due to the demise of the extended family and neighbours and the wealth of experience that is list with it.


  1. Wow.

    I am absolutely stunned by this amazing story.

    For you to have had the resources to go through that, against such terrible support in the hospital is incredible. What amazing friends you have! You're amazing! Your baby is so lucky.

    Well done - you're an inspiration.

  2. Fab story, I am impressed and amazed by your strength and determination to succeed against all the odds. Just goes to show how importand the RIGHT support is. Well done :o)

  3. Thank you so much for sharing. Your determination shows how hard some mums have to work to get breastfeeding going, and how naff support really can be :(
    I'm utterly in awe that you got through all that- I'm not sure I could have done the same -despite breastfeeding 2, 1 for 2 years and stopping when pregnant, then started again ( a bit) a year later when she met older kids who fed openly, the other for 2.5 yrs and still going strong.

  4. Amazing story. Brings back so many memories of a year ago when I had my little girl. She was whisked away into neo-natal due to 24hr weight loss and suspected strep B infection, and although I battled to feed her she was very lethargic and wouldn't suck and I was eventually persuaded to allow formula top ups by nasal tube. Off my own back, I hobbled along to her ward every 3 hours day and night to bf during her top-ups so that she would connect breastfeeding with feeling full. I came across such a mixture of helpful and unhelpful nurses and midwives, and much conflicting advice. After 48 hours and 2 fraught meetings with a lactation consultant I persuaded the doctors to reduce then stop the top ups altogether, to give her the impetus to feed. We didn't look back after that and I breastfed for 9 months but I will always regret giving in so easily to the pressure to administer those top ups.

  5. Well done!
    I think one of the things your story proves is how sometimes the help of an informed friend can make all the difference when the 'system' fails.
    Doctors most often place very little faith in a mother's instinct, but there ARE exceptions. I think one of the hardest things the first time around is to believe in yourself when no-one else seems to! Having friends who DID believe in you (and in breastfeeding!) obviously helped here and I think that's wonderful. Thank you for sharing your story and well done to you and to those friends who helped you so much. I suspect they will have helped quite a few others too ;)


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